God’s Not Finished with You Yet!…

Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometimes in life, we experience brokenness that impacts us so greatly, we feel as if we are finished. The life we once dreamed about is gone, and now our life is never going to come close to all we desired. It may be a result of a physical struggle, an emotional battle or a change in your life that you never saw coming, and now you find yourself discouraged and struggling to make sense of where you are right now.

I experienced a life-changing brokenness when I least expected it. I was happily married to a handsome man who was my first love, first hand hold and my beloved husband. We had three little baby boys together, and I felt like I was living out my dream of being a wife and a mother. Then one day, I kissed my husband goodbye and told him I loved him as he was leaving for work, only to receive a phone call several hours later that my healthy, 30-year-old husband suddenly died as his heart went out of rhythm. I remember so clearly sitting there in that hospital hallway, trying my best to grasp the magnitude of the devastating news that had been given to me. But in a way that was beyond my own strength, I found myself saying, “The Lord gives and takes away, He is so good.” I instantly became a widow at the age of 25, with three precious boys under the age of three, walking a road I could have never imagined. My dreams and my reality shifted in a moment, taking the breath out of me. I found myself asking God to give me the strength to make it minute by minute, even when I couldn’t see the road He had in front of me. As I waited, I held on with everything I had to the hope that God was greater than my grief.

In the months following my husband’s death, I often found myself in the middle of night trying to soothe my newborn baby, as I claimed the hope from God’s word over my family – but it wasn’t easy by any means. I still remember the way my tears of brokenness and grief would fall on his sweet little cheeks. Honestly, there were moments when I felt finished, that life as the happy full of life woman I used to be was gone forever. How could I dream again, when the person who was in those dreams was gone? I remember crying out to God one night saying, God what do you have for me? How can I still have life ahead of me after this? Jesus whispered in my heart, “Hold on, there is joy ahead. I am not finished with you yet.” As I began to press into the truth of God’s word and His mighty promises of Hope, He began to heal my broken heart through His precious presence, and showed me even though I didn’t understand it, He was using this pain for His purpose, if I would just hold on.

I watched as God started to do what He promised. He kept writing my story – not putting me to the side saying you are finished, but saying “You are part of a story that is bigger than yourself and I will bring it to pass, just keep obeying me.” He cared so much for me and precious little fatherless boys, and He kept writing our story with an overwhelming amount of grace. He heard our cries for Him and He truly became enough for us. It was not Jesus plus something, but just Jesus. He brought us through the places of being so worn out from grief to a place of life and hope. He began to do a good work in me.

I started a new chapter in my life, one filled with healing. I began to see in very real ways that God was not done with my family yet, and I continued to hold on to that truth. I decided that I could either stay treading in the waters of tragedy, or I could start swimming for the shore of triumph. And it was in that time that I stopped searching for the WHY and started looking for the WHAT that God had for me here. The “WHAT do you want me to do with this?” question became me plea to God to use this story that I never asked for to bring Him glory, because it was too painful to be wasted. It was during that shift in perspective that God began opening doors to encourage others who felt like God was done with them, and that their stories were over because of the pain they were drowning in.

As I was reaching out to one family in particular, another widower with two small children was encouraging the same family with the truth of God’s word. God started to show me His plan, and He began writing a new chapter in my life. Here was another person who could have been consumed by their circumstances, but was choosing life even when faced with the tragedy of death. God began to write a love story that was precious and filled with much joy – an answer to prayers I hadn’t even prayed, but a physical example of God being a great Author, and one who writes the best stories if only we surrender to Him. It may not be a story we imagined, but it will be one that shows He is always at work, even when we don’t see or feel it.

Two families marked by pain, 5 children, all with one parent in heaven and one on earth. Their stories didn’t stop at pain, but instead were joined together when sorrow and joy collided. As a result, the Brooker Bunch was formed. We still have chapters in our lives marked with sorrow and hardship, but we also have them penned in grace and mercy. God didn’t give up on us when we’re at our lowest. He had a purpose for our lives and we had to trust when we couldn’t see.

If you are reading this right now, you are living and breathing. That means that God has a purpose for YOU, and your story is still being written. God is not done with you. Your life is not over, and God sees and cares about all you are facing – even the hidden things. Your story is not complete, so don’t give up when it’s only half written. I remember so many times, my boys would ask me why they couldn’t go to heaven right then. I would look them in their bright blue eyes and tell them, “Jesus isn’t finished with you yet.” God’s word tells us to run this race with endurance and to keep our eyes and hope fixed on Jesus the whole way. The same is true of you and me. God is not through with YOU. He has a plan and it is good. Keep taking the next breath and believing in His truth that gives life to your weary heart. Keep holding onto hope even when it hurts. Keep trusting that He is at work behind the scenes in your life, even when you can’t see or feel it. His stories are always good – even when they are not always easy or comfortable. He is the good God, and the best story writer. You will see His goodness in the land of the living, because He is the life-giver. God’s not done with you yet.

Today’s inspiring story was written by Brittany Price Brooker and is shared from the following website: https://www.liveoriginal.com/blog/2017/gods-not-done-with-you-yet

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Overcoming Depression – Creating an Attitude of Gratitude Part 5

You Find What You Look For I am finishing my attitude of gratitude series today.

The quote I used on today’s meme tells it all: You Find What You Look For.

What a profound statement! I remember so vividly the night that I had my near-death experience. It was proceeded by a phone call from a bill collector. My severe depression and 24/7 migraines had created chaos of our business and finances. I was not able to keep up and several large clients filing bankruptcy had had a profound effect on our bank account.

I tried to explain to the bill collector that I was suffering from severe depression and 24/7 migraines in hopes that she would be more willing to work with me. Instead, she said, in the snidest tone of voice she could find, “You are depressed and sick because you want to be depressed and sick.”

That conversation was the last straw for my depressed mind that horrible, horrible day so many years ago. Thank goodness for the Divine Intervention that followed that night!

I have learned many things since that day. I have walked a path of healing and I have searched and studied hard. I am no longer depressed and I no longer have 24/7 headaches. I now have the health of someone much younger than my actual age. Nothing about my current situation is an accident. It came as a result of learning and following God’s guidance step by step.

Though I did not consciously choose depression or my headaches, I did have to learn a different mindset to overcome my depression. I had to deliberately look for light and goodness. I had to consciously recognize and acknowledge all that I had to be grateful for. And, I had to commit to using those new found skills for the rest of my life. The result? My life and health is better than it ever has been!

Thus far, we have talked about Depending on God, Delving into the Depths of Your Soul (Getting to truly know yourself), and having an Attitude of Gratitude. Those are the first three steps for overcoming depression.

There are no quick fixes. The law of the harvest is as applicable today as it ever has been. The rest of this week, we will share how the use of exercise can help overcome depression. Be sure to stay tuned! I hope you will enjoy today’s article on using gratitude to overcome depression:

Gratitude – A Cure for Depression?

This Is No Fun

Depression is no fun… none at all, I hated it. Obsession isn’t any fun either… all that relentless going over what happened, who said what, who did what, and how unfair it all was.

After a major life crisis I spent the next year, though it felt a whole lot longer, pretty much laying around on the couch bemoaning my life and feeling hopeless, pointless, angry, depressed, bitter and also quite a bit righteous. After all, I was the victim wasn’t I?

There’s A Train in My Brain

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It felt like I had a train in my brain going around and around carrying a relentless pattern of sad, mad, thoughts. I could not turn those thoughts off, could hardly sleep, and found it hard to think about anything else. The train was full of pain and every time it went around I hurt.

When I looked into the future and imagined living with that train long term it made me feel like jumping off a tall building. Fortunately I didn’t even have the energy to climb to the top of one.

Eventually I got desperate enough to go out and look for a way to change things that did not involve tall buildings.

So That’s How My Brain Works

I happened upon a course that taught me about how my brain works, what neural pathways are, and how flexible and changeable the brain is. During the course I had a profoundly life changing epiphany:

“You find what you look for.”

Those six little words changed the way I live my life.

Backtrack

To backtrack a little: I best explain that even during the worst of my depression/obsession I had been very, very, familiar with gratitude as an concept – I loved it.

I had a gratitude journal (mostly empty) and two of my daughters, Georgia & Hailey, had popular online gratitude projects. Unbelievably, given my mental state, Hailey and I had even written a short comedy film script about gratitude. Still, my gratitude journal sat lonely by my bed while I waited, not very hopefully, for something good to happen, something worth being grateful for.

Why Gratitude Works

While the course was not really about gratitude, the science that was presented in the course opened my eyes as to why and how gratitude could work to alleviate depression and why it had not worked for me so far. I began to understand that it isn’t, as I had thought, being happy that makes us grateful; it is deciding to be grateful that makes us happy (Thanks for that wisdom Dr David!).

I began to see that the intentional practice of gratitude, even when you don’t feel like it, has the power to change entrenched negative thinking and rewire the brain.

Very tentatively, and with some difficulty at first, I began to practice gratitude. In a surprisingly short period of time that relentless train in my head was mostly derailed and my depression faded off into the distance.

There are many reasons that gratitude worked for me, here are just a few:

Other Orientation

Brain rules Dr. John Madina

Gratitude practice forced me to start thinking about other people and the way they contributed to my life. I had less time to wallow, gazing at my navel and more time to notice how many kindnesses I was regularly shown. I’d been so self focused that I just took them for granted and didn’t even notice them.

Dr John Medina, author of the NY Times Bestseller ‘Brain Rules’ spoke, during an interview film for our (still in production) documentary Goodness Gracious Me!, about how effective ‘other orientation’ is for getting out of depression.

Lots of Good Chemicals

I found gratitude practice reduced my stress levels almost immediately. There is so much science backing this up – research shows that gratitude practice reduces the stress hormone cortisol and dramatically increases the feel good hormone DHEA. There is nothing like an all natural ‘happy chemical’ cocktail to make you feel better. You might enjoy this page on the Science behind gratitude.

New Tracks

It turned out I did have a train in my brain going around and around on tracks I had laid for it: neural pathways! These little guys are the highways for information travelling through our nervous system and they are built by our own thoughts. It works, very simplistically put, like this: Thoughts create neural pathways and the more thoughts on a subject the stronger that neural pathway becomes. Our brains have to automate most of our thinking just to get through the day so the strongest neural pathways are the default thinking. My nasty, sad, self pitying and angry thoughts had created a super highway and it was no wonder I couldn’t think about much else.

As I began to deliberately think grateful, thankful, good thoughts the more my brain began to think positively and the less traction the old super highway depression pathway had. In time I found it more natural to default to a positive take on things that happened.

Different Picture

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When I said I had had an epiphany around the six little words “You find what you look for.” I meant it.

Just simply deciding each day to look for the good in my life, and express gratitude for it, has meant that my life has become filled with good. The more I look for good things in my life the more my brain becomes alert to good things, scans for good things, and finds good things.

It is hard to be depressed when there is so much good around. Previously my brain was wired to scan for bad, and it was exceptionally good at finding it.

Named My Own Game

Once I understood how my own thoughts could play a part in depression I realized that I was often making the choice to replay certain things for a variety of self-serving reasons.

Firstly I had developed a victim mentality – starring in a victim role comes easily to me and I have learned to become more aware of it, avoiding it as often as possible. Bad stuff happens to everyone and it is my choice if I let myself play the victim.

Gratitude teaches me that I am not a victim but the undeserving recipient of so much beauty and grace.

Gratitude is an instantly rewarding practice that gave me positive emotions that transitioned me to a place where I was stronger emotionally and able to be a little more self controlled.

Another game I was playing was the sympathy game – if you are depressed people treat you kindly and give you sympathy – yay! Gratitude is teaching me to give empathy to others and stop making myself the center of my own, and everyone else’s, attention. I also began to glimpse how draining on everyone my misery was – not a pretty sight.

I also secretly enjoyed knowing that I did not have to be strong and self controlled if I was rolling in my own misery. Everyone understands that when you are miserable it’s hard to be strong and so there is tolerance for much self indulgent behaviour. Gratitude is an instantly rewarding practice that gave me positive emotions that transitioned me to a place where I was stronger emotionally and able to be a little more self controlled.

My own experience tells me that gratitude is a powerful antidote to depression, many people I talk to feel the same way.

mountains joy awe

Feeling grateful brings emotions of awe, wonder, happiness and joy, to name a few, and those emotions shove depression aside.

As I have researched the subject of gratitude I have come across loads of scientific studies that back up my own experience regarding depression. I have looked a little at depression research too and more and more there is an understanding that our own thoughts have a huge role in this affliction.

Certainly the widespread acceptance that depression is just a chemical imbalance or a random disease is under review among many scientists and psychologists at the moment.

Kill Depression With Kindness

Which brings me to my other depression killing tip: Random acts of kindness – if all else fails for me, and I find myself getting a little down, I just go out and do secret acts of kindness for strangers and friends. Works every time!

This article was written by Toni Powell and is shared from the following website: http://gratefulness.org/grateful_living/gratitude-cure-depression/


smiling woman Toni Powell

Toni Powell is a recovering worrywart, author, storyteller and award-winning filmmaker. She spends most of her time teaching people about the life-changing power of gratitude through very funny workplace seminars, professional development for teachers, public How To Have a Happy Life workshops and videos like the surprising, hilarious and helpful video, The Yellow Car.

 

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Your Life, God’s Way

God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies Hudson Taylor

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Years ago, my church – Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Florida – rented a billboard near a busy highway. We were looking to attract people to what God was doing in our world. The ad featured an image of me (which made sense because the invitation was coming from the church, and well, I’m the pastor) with these words emblazoned across the ad:

Your Life, God’s Way

Despite the blinding vibrancy of my lime green golf shirt, we got a great response to that billboard. Lots of people visited Celebration for the first time and made it their home. Why? I seriously doubt it was due to my friendly-yet-penetrating gaze as drivers made their daily commute to work each day. No.

What drew people in was that the ad offered a different approach to the one thing everyone is concerned about and probably mulling over on their way to work: my life. Imagine the thoughts of those drivers. It’s not hard because we’ve all had them at one time or another, maybe at this very moment:

  • My life is a mess.
  • My life is going great.
  • My life doesn’t matter.
  • My life is about to change.
  • My life is falling apart.
  • My life has no purpose.
  • My life is too busy.
  • My life is depressing.
  • My life is over-the-top amazing.

The billboard reached all these people behind the wheel – all with different plans, experiences, hopes, disappointments, and so on – and offered them one more lens through which to view their life: God’s way.

Adding these two words has a way of changing our perspective. It forces us to pause and consider that there may be a completely different way of doing life than we are currently doing it, one we may never have considered. I’m sure more than one person drove by that billboard and thought, “God’s way,” huh? What does that look like? It’s gotta be better than the way I’m doing it.

When I first started thinking about my life in terms of God’s way, three life-altering, game-changing realizations came to mind. And speaking now as a pastor, let me add that these apply to anyone.

God has a “way” for our lives. Most people think God is not at all interested in the details of our lives. But he is.

He doesn’t sit in heaven simply watching our lives from the nosebleeds. God wants to be fully involved in your life, and He has a game plan, a path, a way for your life that is designed specifically for you (Psalm 37:23). As you make Him the first priority in your life, you’ll witness firsthand just how much God wants to be present and active in your life. You will experience His presence on a whole new level.

We don’t have to carry the weight of our life alone. Life is challenging, and the cares of life are heavy, but God doesn’t want you to carry the burden alone. Jesus invites you to keep step with Him while He does the heavy lifting (Matthew 11:28). When you put God first, you begin to live in response to Him as He shapes your life. Rather than striving to manipulate and control every outcome under your own strength, you will find that God is standing close, ready to help lighten the load.

God’s way is better than ours.

The Bible says that God’s way is perfect, refreshing, trustworthy, right, and enlightening (Psalm 19:7-8). I don’t know about you, but my way usually isn’t any of those things. Amazingly, God’s way is not only all those things, but it also meets us wherever we are.

When you feel like your life…

  • is a mess, God works all things out for your good (Romans 8:28).
  • is going great, God has greater things in store for you (1 Corinthians 2:9).
  • doesn’t matter, God ascribes incredible value to you (1 Peter 1:18-19).
  • is about to change, he will be with you every step of the way (Hebrews 13:5).
  • is falling apart, God is your strength and deliverer (Psalm 18:1-2).
  • has no purpose, God’s purpose for you will prevail (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • is too busy, God’s peace guards your heart and mind (Philippians 4:7).
  • is depressing, he is the giver of joy (Romans 15:13).
  • is over-the-top amazing, there is a place to direct your gratitude (James 5:13).

God’s way for your life is the best possible way you can live. This is the God-first life. It’s the life God intends you to live.

Today’s article was written by Stovall Weems and is shared from the following website: https://www.faithgateway.com/your-life-gods-way/#.W3Q_gy-ZNmA

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The Joy of Having Faith in a Perfectly Faithful God

Faith is the vision of the heart; it sees God in the dark as well as in the day Unknown

The account given in Luke 7 of Jesus healing the Centurion’s servant is a rather short and easily overlooked story. However, in this passage, God reveals some supremely significant truths. This section of Luke proves that there truly is no section of Scripture that is irrelevant. In fact, these ten verses tell us a lot more than simply a story of one of Jesus’s miracles; they show us that God has infinite power and that true God-given faith stands out and can move mountains. We also are given an example of how humility and a recognition of our lowly state leads to the ability to see Christ as He is: the Lord of Lords and King of Kings who was brought low for our sake. The Centurion was a man who was highly esteemed in his community. He had power and wealth. Yet, in verse six, he says he is not worthy to have Jesus even enter his household. There is an important lesson of both trust and humility to be seen in the Centurion.

Not only did the man not think himself worthy of being in the presence of Jesus, but he also trusted the power of Jesus enough to ask the Lord to heal his servant from where they stood. How often do we, in a trial or struggle, pray to God with doubt and concern and hesitation? It is against our human nature to give up control and truly trust God. However, this Centurion does just that, and he is not disappointed. His servant is healed, and he is praised for his act of faith. We, too, must remember that we serve a loving and a powerful God.

What a wonderful combination.

God shows us love in sending his Son, in upholding us in this life, and in bringing us closer to himself, even in the midst of this sinful world. However, we also serve a powerful God who has the ability to heal us, to help us, to calm us, to deliver us, and to grow us.

Since he is a faithful God, we are called to be faithful servants to him. May we have the kind of faith that the Centurion showed in Luke 7. May we call out to God with the confidence that what we ask will surely be granted. May that same faith be used to show the love of Christ to those around us. If the Centurion cared so much for the earthly state of his servant, how much more should we care for the eternal wellbeing of those around us? It is easy to think about people like Daniel, Joseph, and David for examples of saving, trusting faith. However, we do not need to walk into a fiery furnace, be sold into slavery, or stand against a giant in order to find or exemplify mountain-moving faith. Instead, we must simply look to God with a trusting heart: “Here is my life, guide me, sanctify me, and lead me in your ways.” We must do so with a confidence that the loving, almighty God whom we serve will fulfill all those things in our lives in unimaginable ways. For we have in his word a plethora of promises, to be held through any situation we might face in this life.

The same God-given faith that allowed Daniel to walk through fire unharmed, that allowed Joseph to thrive and witness even after being sold into slavery, that allowed David to stand against a giant and prevail, lives in us. How can we ever fear things in this life? How can we ever doubt a God who has never failed? When we face a trial or unsure situation in this life, may we stand firm in the confidence that the God who rules over us is faithful and loving. Even when we fail, when we falter, when we doubt, he stands firm for us. He will never leave us or forsake us. What a joy we have to rest in that promise.

Today’s article was written by Stephanie Kuiper and is shared from the following website: https://inallthings.org/the-joy-of-having-faith-in-a-perfectly-faithful-god/

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Use Your Gifts and Talents!

Use your gifts faithfully, and they shall be enlarged; practice what you know, and you shall attain to higher knowledge. Matthew ArnoldDo you recognize that you have gifts? Do you feel in your heart that there are special things you should be doing with those gifts? If so, I hope you will not ignore those feelings in your heart.

If you honestly don’t feel that you have any gifts and/or talents, I hope that you will go to the Lord and ask Him to reveal them to you.

One of the most memorable parts of my near-death experience was seeing how all of us who would be born to this earth had been blessed with a multitude of gifts and talents.

Although we were not given the same talents and gifts and some were given more than others, the most important aspect of those gifts, that I witnessed, was that we honor and use them.

For me, it makes the parable of the talents that is shared in the New Testament even more meaningful. What I saw in heaven supports what is taught in that parable. It doesn’t matter what talents we receive. It matters that we use them and when we do, not only will those talents increase, we will also be provided with additional talents.

It is my witness that the Lord loves us and wants us to use what He has given us. We have all been given talents and gifts that are meant to be developed and used here in mortality.

With the Lord, our gifts do not have to be complicated. They can be as simple as having the gift of listening or as far-reaching as the gift of of inspiring millions. The important thing about gifts is that they are meant to be shared.

If you haven’t already, I hope you will commit to share your gifts with the world!

In that light, I hope you enjoy today’s story!:

Two Intelligent Boys

Once upon a time there were two incredibly intelligent and capable boys. Their wonderful talents were obvious from an early age, and they easily outdid everyone around. They had always known they were special, and they harbored inside them a desire that, in the future, everyone would come to admit how exceptional they were.

Each of them developed in a different way. The first used all his talent and intelligence to have a successful career and show everyone his superiority. He took part in all kinds of competitions, visited all the most important people and places, and was great at making friends in high places. Even when still very young, no one doubted that some day he would be the wisest and most important person in the land.
The second boy, equally aware of his own capabilities, never stopped feeling a heavy responsibility. He would do almost any task better than those around him, and he would feel obliged to help them. This didn’t leave him enough time to follow his own dreams of greatness. He was always busy looking for ways to more effectively help others. As a result, he was a much-loved and well-known person, but only in his own small circle.

Destiny was such that a great disaster struck that land, spreading problems and misery far and wide. The first of those brilliant young men had never come across anything like this, but his brilliant ideas worked successfully throughout the land, and they managed to slightly improve the situation. But the second young man was so used to solving all kinds of problems, and had such useful know-how in certain subjects, that the disaster hardly affected the people in his region at all. His admirable methods were then adopted across the land, and the fame of this good and wise man spread even more than had that of the first young man. Indeed, he was soon elected governor of the whole nation.

The first young man then understood that the greatest fame and wisdom is that which is born from the very things we do in life, from the impact they have on others, and from the need to improve ourselves every day. He never again took part in competitions or vain shows, and from then on, whenever he traveled, he took his books along with him, so he would be ready always to offer a helping hand to all.

Story Written by Pedro Pablo Sacristan

Story shared from the following website: https://freestoriesforkids.com/children/stories-and-tales/two-intelligent-boys

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